Mark Twain famously wrote that the coldest winter that he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Based on my experience last month, Twain was only slightly exaggerating. Of course given the recent sweltering weather in Queens, I wasn’t complaining.
One of the reasons New Yorkers feel at home in San Francisco is that you don’t need a car to get around. There are plenty of buses, commuter trains, and of course, those world famous cable cars to get you around. While the cable cars along Powell Street are fun to ride, they are very crowded and there are often long lines to board at either its downtown terminal or its northern endpoint at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Fisherman’s Wharf is the town’s most famous tourist destination for a multitude of reasons. You can choose between numerous boat rides around San Francisco Bay as well as take a ferry to legendary Alcatraz Island or to various locales in Marin or Alameda counties. Expect to find many sea lions as they have made their home at the Pier 39 outdoor shopping mall for the last 20 years.
One of the newer attractions at the Wharf is the Aquarium of the Bay which is home to over 20,000 species of aquatic life that are native to Northern California. You feel as if you are swimming with the leopard sharks and bat rays as you walk through a tunnel that is below all of the marine life.
As you would expect from a place called Fisherman’s Wharf, there is no shortage of seafood restaurants, with the best known and oldest being Alioto’s, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary. You can choose just about any Italian or seafood dish imaginable here. The dungeness crab soup is quite popular. If you want brunch, stop by Knuckles Restaurant at the Hyatt and try the dungeness crab cake, which is a lighter and tastier dish than its more famous Maryland blue crab cake cousin.
Two miles northwest of Fisherman’s Wharf, in the Presidio section of Golden Gate National Park, is San Francisco’s newest attraction, the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened less than a year ago. The museum contains a treasure trove of memorabilia from the personal collections of the late Walt Disney, such as his various Academy Awards as well as other honors that he was bestowed.
The Disney Museum is a must for baby boomers as it contains Disney’s original sketches for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy; behind the scenes info on beloved film classics as “Snow White,” “Pinocchio,” “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella” and “Fantasia”; and the creator himself discussing his visions of Disneyland and television’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.” The Walt Disney Family Museum is not affiliated with the Disney Corporation.
The San Francisco Zoo, located in the city’s Ocean Beach neighborhood (nestled right against the Pacific Ocean), has one of the best primate exhibits in the United States.
The area south of Market Street has radically changed since my last visit here 16 years ago. What was once a rather desolate area full of warehouses and a few factories has now become a modern mecca of sleek hotels, restaurants and boutiques. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art moved here a few years ago. You will find paintings by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Max Ernst as well as sculptures from Alexander Calder.
The biggest addition to the area has been AT&T Park, which is home to the San Francisco Giants. Even if you are not a baseball fan you will enjoy watching a game here. The outfield is completely open (unlike Citi Field) and you can watch the boats line up behind the right field wall in the part of San Francisco Bay that has now been dubbed McCovey Cove in honor of the Giants’ former first baseman, and hall of famer, Willie McCovey. When the Giants win, Astoria native Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” is played over the public address system.
There is no shortage of fine hotels. The Grand Hyatt in Union Square has great long weekend deals and is located in the heart of downtown. It’s one block from the Powell Street cable car line.
I highly recommend purchasing a San Francisco City Pass booklet which saves you a lot on a variety of attractions and allows you to ride free for a week on the city’s mass transit system.
Getting to San Francisco is easy and inexpensive as JetBlue has two daily flights here.
For more information log onto onlyinsanfrancisco.com or call 1 (415) 974-6900.